From the USSR to today, Igor Moukhine on a roller coaster

By Benoît Vitkine

Posted today at 6:00 a.m.

Igor Moukhine is not a historian. Just a 20-year-old kid who, throughout the 1980s, roamed his city, Moscow, slung camera, his eyes wide open. As we celebrate 30 years since the demise of the Soviet Union in December, however, his work is being shown for what it is: a piece of history. The photographer, born in 1961, is exhibited at the Maison de la photographie Robert-Doisneau, in Gentilly (Val-de-Marne), until January 9, 2022. A book bringing together the various photographs presented has been published by Bergger editions: Generations. From the USSR to the new Russia. 1985-2021.

His most important work concerns this period of transition launched by Mikhail Gorbachev which stretches from the 1980s – a time of glasnost (desire for greater transparency) and perestroika (a policy of restructuring) – at the end of the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The 200 million citizens are confused, and Moukhine follows in the footsteps of underground youth, rock and punk fans. He visits the backyards, the smoky kitchens with them. His work, however, has a more universal scope – it shows the collision of worlds and eras, the learning of freedom.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Gorbachev, the man of glasnost and perestroika

In Igor Moukhine’s photograph, the shots are superimposed, one, two, three, four, like an orange being peeled, like a mystery that pierces. The eras collide, the chapka of a passer-by seems to demand accountability from the long hair of a black jacket. The gray facades of the red paradise are filled with inscriptions, with vivid and unknown silhouettes.

The wild decade

It is the time of the great change, the exhaustion of a world. There is no longer any question of the struggle against communism, as in the days of dissidents. With Mikhail Gorbachev, totalitarianism died and took with it all the evidences that made up Soviet life, including fear. All that remains is the grandiloquent decor, suddenly useless and cracked. The shock is brutal, dirty, noisy, and not only because Moukhine likes the characters on the fringes. Already, in his images, the savage decade emerges, those superb 1990s of freedom, terrifying of violence – social, economic, psychological, physical.

The community apartments are overflowing, the walls are cracking, the medals are rusting, the grandmothers’ scarves are fading. The rock singer Viktor Tsoï, frontman of the group Kino, whose success is a response to the call for freedom of the youth (and whose route will be adapted to the screen in 2018 by Kirill Serebrennikov in the film Summer), is on everyone’s lips. We see him in a snapshot of Moukhine going down the stairs of a metro station.

You have 29.17% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

We would love to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this remarkable web content

From the USSR to today, Igor Moukhine on a roller coaster

Fuzzy Skunk